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The government must abandon its fossil fuel power projects. If not, we’ll sue

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04.03.2020

No longer should our survival be an afterthought. If we are to withstand the climate crisis, every decision should begin with the question of what the planet can endure. This means that any discussion about new infrastructure should begin with ecological constraints. The figures are stark. A paper published in Nature last year showed that existing energy infrastructure, if it is allowed to run to the end of its natural life, will produce around 660 gigatonnes of CO2. Yet, to stand a reasonable chance of preventing more than 1.5°C of global heating, we can afford to release, in total, no more than 580 gigatonnes.

In other words, far from building new fossil power plants, the survival of a habitable planet means retiring the damaging projects that have already been built. Electricity plants burning coal and gas and oil will not secure our prosperity. They will destroy it.

But everywhere special interests dominate. Construction projects are driven, above all, by the lobbying of the construction industry, consultancies and financiers. Gigantic and destructive schemes, such as the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway, are invented by lobbyists for the purpose of generating contracts. Political support is drummed up, and the project achieves its own momentum; then, belatedly, a feeble attempt is made to demonstrate that it can somehow become compatible with environmental promises. This is what destroys civilisations: a mismatch between the greed of economic elites and the needs of society.

But last week something momentous happened. The decision to build a scheme with vast financial backing and terrible environmental impacts was struck down by the court of appeal. The judges decided that government policy, on which planning permission for a third runway at Heathrow was based, had failed to take account of the UK’s climate commitments, and was therefore........

© The Guardian